What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. Simply put, it is telling your story to a decision-maker, through various means, in order to compel that person to do something. Therese Borchard defines a mental health advocate as anyone who is a voice for those suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder—who hopes to disseminate a message of hope and support.

Advocacy is gaining public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. Most commonly, advocacy is directed towards government and decision makers. In the area of mental health, individuals and organizations advocate for a wide variety of reasons, including improved access to services and improved benefits and supports for people living with mental illness.

A successful advocacy effort can take some time to produce results. But each time you speak on behalf of your chosen issue, you raise awareness and build support.

What does the Schizophrenia Society of Canada advocate for?

Advocating on behalf of individuals and families affected by early psychosis and schizophrenia is an important part of the SSC’s mission: Build a Canada where people living with early psychosis and schizophrenia reach their potential.

The phrase in the mission statement “people living with early psychosis and schizophrenia” consists of two groups: 1. The person living with the mental illness. 2. The family members and friends living with schizophrenia. Again, this statement encompasses both individuals and families by saying “people living with early psychosis and schizophrenia.”

And the focus is on helping them to be their best selves, whatever that might be, that’s why we went with “achieve their potential,” so that it is open-ended and many people can see themselves there, and it is achievable, yet aspirational. This statement is deliberately flexible on the “how” so we have room to make it our own and move forward in a variety of ways.  The goal of recovery is achieving one’s potential in spite of limitations associated with a mental illness, and living a satisfying life with the support of family, friends, service providers, and the community at large.

Our organization is committed to and advocates for improving the quality of life or “life satisfaction” for those affected by these illnesses through education, public policy, and research. SSC pushes for systems and policy change at both the national and community levels.

SSC is committed to the following principles:

  • Persons with enduring mental health problems have the right to appropriate care, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery within the least restrictive environment. They have the right to remain in their own community wherever possible.
  • Government, caregivers, the voluntary sector and individuals must work toward improved quality of life for those living with a mental illness and their families and friends.
  • Continuing public education is necessary to sensitize society and to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. We are seeking to build a geography with less prejudice and stigma with the goal of reducing discrimination and increasing social inclusion of those we represent.
  • Community reinvestment is a fundamental building block in treatment, rehabilitation and recovery.
  • The voices of both those with lived/living experience and their families possess the capacity for positive change. The aim of SSC is to work within a reciprocally helpful relationship.
  • As an advocacy leader we want be known as an inspirational visionary. One that communicates a vision of hope. Hope changes everything!
  • A conviction that things can be better. It is a world view, a philosophy. It is the heartbeat of SSC as a national leader. It’s the key message of our advocacy. When we create better mental health care in partnership with primary health care and social health care, then we “Build a Canada where people living with early psychosis and schizophrenia achieve their potential.

Who Does the Schizophrenia Society Partner With?

The SSC’s advocacy initiatives are directed by the Advocacy Committee of the Board of Directors working with our CEO. SSC networks with other national mental health organizations, people or groups who can influence policy and/or funding (government), corporate/employer groups, and younger generations. Thus, the purpose of advocacy is to promote or reinforce a change in policy, programme or legislation. Rather than providing support directly to clients or users of services, advocacy aims at winning support from others. Some of our partners are:

“Even as we call for increased resources for mental health problems and illnesses, we must make the very best use of our current funding to avoid the pitfalls of duplication of effort and missed opportunities. We must be willing to set aside individual agendas and tear down silos.  I believe that by modeling this kind of partner-leadership, we can signal to all entities in the sector that what we do, together, matters a whole lot more than who did what.”
— Louise Bradley, president and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

What It Means to be a Mental Health Advocate – And How to Become One

Effective advocates influence public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, their relationships, the media, and messaging to educate government officials and the public on the changes they want to bring for families and their relatives.

In August 2020, SSC submitted the following recommendations to the Federal Government:

Recommendation 1: SSC recommends that the Federal Government evaluate current federal policing procedures for training in mental health crisis intervention and that new training programs be considered. Standardized, sustained, and frequent training for RCMP and other law enforcement officers in de-escalation and mental health crisis response is urgently needed to save lives. 

Recommendation 2: That the Federal Government improve access to mental health care with the introduction of a Mental Health Parity Act. Mental health care supports should be broadly inclusive of individuals with schizophrenia and early psychosis.

only with schizophrenia and early psychosis, but with any mental illness.

Recommendation 3: SSC recommends that the Federal Government create and evaluate measurement performance for spending for primary care for those living with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

To read SSC’s full Pre-Budget Submission click here.


Your mental illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does.